Book Marks

By Lavender April 24, 2008

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The Stone Gods
by Jeanette Winterson
Harcourt
224 pages
$24 hardcover

Not too many fictional years from now, the planet Orbus has been devastated by a global war and is on the edge of environmental meltdown. The hope for humanity is just-discovered Planet Blue, where—if the dinosaurs could only be wiped out—humankind might resettle. That’s the core of Winterson’s post-apocalyptic romp, sometimes seriously polemical (even downright didactic) as it condemns out-of-control consumer consumption and accelerating climate change, and sometimes deliciously satirical.

Consider the dinosaur-friendly “Lesbian Vegans” who—in one of the busy novel’s three central sections (set in Earth’s “Post-3 War” era)—plan a pilgrimage to the site of the asteroid impact that supposedly wiped out Earth’s saurian species. What ties this loopy novel together as it hops back in time and skips among worlds is the relationship between rebellious heroine Billie Crusoe and Spike, a sexy, feminine Robo sapiens. Their evolving emotional bond and unusual physical relationship—in one section, Spike is a head that Billie carries around in a sling—is the one constant in a kaleidoscopic tour-de-force.

Blind Fall
by Christopher Rice
Scribner
296 pages
$26 hardcover

There’s a lot of plot crammed into Rice’s fourth novel, a thriller about the gruesome murder of a gay Marine. Too much plot, perhaps; leaner might have been meaner. Central to the story is former Marine John Houck, a straight (and straitlaced) man tormented by the belief that his younger brother committed suicide after being molested by a man. He’s further anguished when he learns that the fellow Marine who saved his life in Iraq, Mike Bowers, was a closeted queer—only after he discovers Bowers’ body, and teams up with Bowers’ boyfriend to find the killer. The story of a straight Marine’s reverence for the military prowess of a gay brother-in-arms, and his squeamish acceptance of the dead man’s lover, is a stylish and emotionally complex take on the mystery genre. While the secondary plot about Houck’s shame at not protecting his brother from a presumed sexual predator adds texture to his fear of queers, it does slow the pace of Rice’s otherwise action-packed, roller-coaster story.
Flights of Angels: My Life with the Angels of Light
by Adrian Brooks
Arsenal Pulp Press
272 pages
$27.95 hardcover

Communal households, free theater, easy sex, easier drugs: those were the days. We’re talking San Francisco in the ‘70s, a time Brooks remembers with a mature sense of wonderment, bewilderment, and measured nostalgia. His cheerfully dishy (and, a couple of times, just plain bitchy) memoir is centered on the near-decade he spent with the Angels of Light, a fantastical troupe whose almost-anything-goes performances—like those of the also-legendary Cockettes—often transcended trashy and achieved the sublime. But Brooks’ account of his life before the Angels is equally compelling. He was a wild young one, eventually disinherited by his wealthy Philadelphia parents; he was a Quaker antiwar activist; he worked for Martin Luther King Jr.; he chatted for hours—about socks!—with Andy Warhol; and he was a dashing figure in the poetry scene, reading with Paul Mariah, Judy Grahn, Pat Parker, and Harold Norse. More than 50 gorgeous color photos (and dozens of black-and-whites) by photographer Dan Nicoletta capture Angels performances and performers, adding zip to the story; a coda of autobiographical poems by Brooks written over the past 30 years adds extra heart.

Dragonfly Stories: Celebrating the GLBTQ Community
by J. Cascio, Catherine Brown, and Beatrice Gordon
Rainbow Legends
416 pages
$18.66 paper

The 23 short, first-person essays about queer lives in this collection are powerful in their simplicity. Lee and Merlin recount their 38-year love affair; Eveline tells about loving the woman in her life after that woman becomes a man; Judy describes her life with John—and with “Veronica,” his cross-dressing persona; Harvey Stern writes about working with a GLBTQ senior center. Everyday stories written by everyday people, these essays about the queer moments central to our lives—coming out, falling in love, parenting, activism, finding faith, living with HIV, aging—are, cumulatively, an unaffected but memorably affecting oral history of the rainbow tribe, the personal made warmly universal. They are wonderfully complemented by a longer memoir that concludes the book, “Our Forever Love,” in which one of the editing triumvirate (Joyce Cascio) and her lover Amanda Cascio tell the story of how they became partners, leaving their respective relationships and moving into each others’ lives. This is the first of an ambitious plan to publish two volumes a year. Why not? There are untold stories…
Richard Labonte has been reading, editing, selling, and writing about queer literature since the mid-’70s. He can be reached in care of this publication or at BookMarks@qsyndicate.com

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